5. The Brother
The dark, finely grained, and carefully burnished wood felt cold and smooth beneath his fingers. As he ran his hand lightly over the elaborately carved armrest of the throne, Nolofinwë found himself remembering the first time he had seen his father sitting upon it; a very young boy then, he had not at first recognized the crowned man swathed in the finery of his office, and had clung terrified to his mother's side, trembling and gripping her hand tightly. But Indis had pushed him forward gently, saying, "Husband, you have a visitor," and the man, smiling, had turned his attention away from the assembled councilors and called out, "Hello, son. Come over here and join me." Then Nolofinwë, recognizing the familiar voice and suddenly knowing this splendid king to be his beloved father, had run to him. Finwë had lifted him onto his lap, and given him his scepter to hold while he finished talking to the councilors, and Nolofinwë, cradled securely in his father's embrace, had looked at it and marveled. Afterwards Finwë had permitted him to sit on the throne itself, and let his young son try on his crown, which had been far too heavy for such a small child to wear for more than a moment or so; when he had finally left the hall, Nolofinwë's right hand had been securely held by his father, while his left grasped his mother's delicate fingers. And so they had walked, the three of them together, from the Great Hall back towards their private rooms in the palace, and Nolofinwë had been happy, until he had turned slightly and seen his older brother watching him, with bright eyes filled with hate. Nolofinwë had stopped, startled, and when Finwë turned to look and saw Fëanáro staring, he had dropped his small son's hand. "Go with your mother," he'd said quietly. "I'll follow later." And he'd left Nolofinwë then and lead his older son away, draping an arm around the boy's rigid shoulders, and Nolofinwë had walked quietly with his mother back to his nursery, downcast.
Had Fëanáro seen me that day, sitting on Father's lap, holding his scepter, wearing his crown? the grown man now wondered. Some of our people have foresight; did my elder brother somehow sense what was to come? Is that why he always hated me so - because somehow he knew that I, and not he, would one day sit on our father's throne and rule? Brother, if that was the case then your prescience betrayed you, for your own actions were what lead to this sad day, and not mine!
Nolofinwë could not help but feel a twinge of bitterness as he recalled Finwë's departure from the city that morning. His father had spoken at length to him and to his younger brother Arafinwë, advising them on matters of leadership, reminding them of the love he held for them, and reassuring them that he would hold them both in his heart until the day of his return - and then, after one last quick embrace, he was gone. Gone to follow the one who truly held his heart in thrall, the son who so cleverly used his father's guilt as a chain with which to bind him, the child who demanded all of his father's love as his birthright. Fëanáro - exiled because of his own hateful actions, but what did that matter to Finwë in the end? It's always the same, Nolofinwë thought angrily. My brother cries out in rage and hatred, and you run to him - never mind that you have other children who long for your love, too, younger sons who need you also. What do our needs matter, compared to his? We are but your by-blows, after all. You think we do not know that you regret your marriage to our mother Indis? Everyone speaks of Fëanáro's pain - poor motherless Fëanáro - but no one sees ours. No one sees that Arafinwë and I have never truly had a father. Why did you bother to sire us, if you were unwilling to force Fëanáro to share your heart with us?
At first, Fëanáro's determined rejection of his admiring younger brother had cast a heavy shadow over little Nolofinwë's spirit - but then Arafinwë had been born, and Nolofinwë in relief soon turned away from his hostile older brother towards this new, friendlier playmate. Arafinwë had loved him, as did his sisters and Indis also; the only thing in Nolofinwë's eyes that had marred his family's happiness was Fëanáro, whose existence pulled their father Finwë away from them. As a boy, Nolofinwë had hoped that perhaps together he and Arafinwë could force their way into their father's heart, and push their hateful older sibling out of it. But their clumsy attempts had seemingly had no effect on their father, who had continued to dote on his first child, and had only succeeded in angering Fëanáro even more. Eventually they had given up their efforts and grudgingly accepted what they had not been able to alter. When Fëanáro had finally left Tirion to begin his apprenticeship with his grandfather Mahtan, young Nolofinwë and Arafinwë had silently rejoiced; for the first time in their lives their family had felt whole, and they'd reveled in their father's undivided attention - for a few weeks. Then Finwë had left to visit his firstborn, and Nolofinwë and his brother were forced to realize that nothing had really changed. And now that I am older, I know it never will. You journeyed north regularly to visit Fëanáro during his apprenticeship, but though you are not yourself exiled, I doubt will ever occur to you to occasionally ride south to visit me, Nolofinwë thought sadly.
"Are you ever going to sit in it?" Startled, Nolofinwë roused himself from his idle reminiscence and turned to see Arafinwë standing in the doorway. His brother gestured gracefully towards the massive throne. "Well?" he asked. "You've been standing there petting that chair long enough; I'm quite sure it's in a friendly mood now after receiving so much attention. Sit down, brother - I don't think it will bite you." Nolofinwë simply stared; after a moment, Arafinwë walked over to his brother's side. "Go on, sit in it," he said quietly, "it's yours now."
Nolofinwë looked at his brother, then turned and stared again at the throne, remembering again that first sight of his father there, so long ago. The father who was gone now, following the son he loved so passionately and so blindly, leaving this place, and his city, to his lesser progeny, mere by-blows. Then he slowly eased himself onto the throne, feeling the heavy silk cushions mold to shape themselves to his form, accepting him. For the first time, he looked out across the Great Hall from the position of its master.
"How does it feel?" Arafinwë asked.
How does it feel? Nolofinwë mused. Father has stepped down - but it is not Fëanáro who sits here today in his stead. Our spiteful half-brother may forever hold our father's heart - but in some things he is not the victor. In our own way, little brother, we have finally won our long battle.
"It feels good."
The names of the characters used in this story are all Quenya, and their meanings can be found in the essay "The Shibboleth of Fëanor," published in The Peoples of Middle Earth (History of Middle Earth, vol. 12). When more than one name is listed for a character, the first name is the father-name, and the second is the mother-name. The Sindarin equivalents of the names in this chapter are as follows:
Fëanáro - Fëanor
Nolofinwë - Fingolfin
Arafinwë - Finarfin